Talking to your partner, family and friends about sex and fertility
It's important to remember that there isn't a ‘right’ way to cope with cancer. How you and your partner, family and friends deal with it will depend on your personalities, your life
experiences and how you
cope with challenging situations.
How cancer affects your relationship with your partner, if you have one, may depend on many things – the level of commitment in your relationship, how long you’ve been together, how long you’ve had cancer and how it affects your day-to-day life.If a relationship was difficult before cancer, it probably won’t be any better after the diagnosis. However, some couples find more love for each other when they have to overcome a shared challenge like cancer.
Talking about sex and relationshipsBack to top
Everyone’s experience of relationships and sex is different. Your own personal experiences will have an impact on how you talk about these things.
It’s hard to talk to people, but I think not talking made me depressed. Keeping things inside and feeling like I was the only one was hard. Whether you talk to friends, family, a counsellor or a charity, do it, because it really does help.
You might not have had sex before you were diagnosed with cancer, or you may have had several partners. You may find it easy to talk about sex, or you may feel embarrassed. Asking friends, family or healthcare professionals for advice about your body or sex may seem difficult, but it can really help.
Although it may not be easy for you, talking about relationships or sexual issues can be the first step towards dealing with any problems. There is help for most problems, but you may never find out about it if you keep things to yourself.
It’s important to find someone that you feel comfortable talking to. This could be your boyfriend or girlfriend if you have one, a family member, a friend or a professional.
- talk to them in person
- email them
- phone them
- text them
- write them a letter or note.
Sometimes, if the other person feels embarrassed or uncomfortable, they may seem insensitive. It can help to give them some warning that you want to talk about something private.
All families are different. Some talk about relationships and sex easily and openly. Other families might not normally do this. It can sometimes be difficult to talk about these issues with the people close to you, especially if you find that they get upset.
In some families and communities, there may be an expectation or assumption that everyone will have children. Many people aren’t aware that cancer and its treatment can sometimes affect you sexually, or affect your fertility. People around you can sometimes be insensitive without realising it. Even people who do understand can find it difficult to talk about these issues. This may be because they don’t know what to say, because they feel powerless to make it better, or because they want to believe that everything is fine.
If you are worried about the response you will get from your family or community, try speaking to someone from your team at the hospital. They might be able to put you in touch with someone who has had a similar experience to you.
Some families and communities don’t agree with using medical treatments to get pregnant. For example, some religions don’t approve of certain fertility treatments. This can be difficult to cope with if you would like to consider fertility treatment.
Boyfriends and girlfriends
It was strange losing body hair, particularly from sensitive areas. I was single when I was diagnosed, but I met my girlfriend during chemo. It felt strange to start a sexual relationship with such a different body. I felt I had to take things a bit slower, and was quite honest about it.
If you have a boyfriend or girlfriend, it’s important to talk to them about how you feel. If the cancer has had an impact on your sex life or body image, try to tell them this.
If you were already having sex with your partner before your diagnosis, you may have noticed that one of you was more interested in sex than the other. Cancer can increase this difference. If one person’s desire changes, this can be upsetting, especially when there’s the added complication of cancer.
For some people, cancer doesn’t affect their sex life very much. In this case, it can be reassuring that some parts of your life haven’t changed because of the cancer.
You may find it difficult to start new relationships after being diagnosed with cancer. It can be even harder with someone you didn’t know before. You may feel unsure about whether to tell them about your cancer, and what to say. If your fertility might be affected, you may worry that they won’t be interested in you if you can’t have children.
I didn’t know how he’d react, but I knew I had to tell him about the disability and not being able to have children. I wanted to get it all out straight away. I think he thinks more of me now he knows what I’ve been through.
Deciding when to tell a new partner about your cancer can be difficult. You may prefer to tell them straight away, or you may prefer to wait. There’s no right or wrong time, but it can be difficult to decide what to do. It can help to talk to someone else about it, such as a family member, friend or professional.
You may find it harder to talk to your friends about relationships and sex after being diagnosed with cancer. You may feel that they don’t understand your situation. You may feel left out or isolated.
Sometimes, it can help to explain to one or two friends what it’s like for you. They can help you work out how to deal with any conversations about sex and relationships.
It might help to talk to other people your age who’ve had cancer. You can do this in our online community if you’re aged 16 or over.